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It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Writing Superhero!

Monday, February 27, 2017 4:36
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So there I was, backed into a corner with a flailing manuscript. Despite feedback from writing partners, critique groups, and all my usual best efforts, it still needed something. But what?

“Help! HELPPPPP!” I hollered. And suddenly, I heard the cry, reverberating through my speakers. (It sounded a lot like Mighty Mouse singing, “Here I come to save the daaayyyyy!”) Look! Through the interwebs! In my Inbox! Swooping in with all kinds of ideas was…

Independent Editor Person!

So how do you know when it’s time to call for help? When might you need an indie editor? Here are a few tips that could point you in that direction:

If you’re sending out your manuscript to agents and getting lots of requests for a full but no offers of representation, it might be beneficial to get an editor. Chances are good, you’ve probably got an interesting premise—yay! You’ve written a compelling query, too—yay! And your writing in the first ten pages—the standard number of pages in a query—must be great. Double yay! But somewhere past those ten pages and query, the writing’s falling apart—boo!

An editorial letter, three to five pages of feedback, might just save the writing day for you, clearing up the plot problems or character snafus that are keeping those agents from committing.

So ask your published writing friends, preferably friends who are published where you want to be published, for editor recommendations. The cost of an indie editor varies widely, depending on the manuscript length, from reasonable ($50) to quite expensive ($4,000) so you’ll want to do your homework before you make a commitment.

If you have an agent who’s sent your manuscript out on round after round after round of submissions and it’s not selling, it might be time to call an editor. When you and your agent have worked on the story and firmly believe it’s ready, when you both love the story, and especially if your feedback is very basic, it can be hard to see what’s stopping the sale. A fresh pair of professional eyes can open your eyes to what needs revision.

An agent may know of editors that clients have used and make that recommendation, but again, it’s often enough to put out the request to friends in your genre. Reliable names come up on a reliable basis.

And finally, if your manuscript is winning multiple contests in professional writing organizations, like RWA or SCBWI, but then going nowhere fast, an editor might be able to get that story over the finish line. It’s possible that the manuscript’s sagging somewhere in the middle and you need feedback on the whole story.

That’s what a superhero editor can do for you: look at the whole story and make suggestions for improvement. And believe me, it’ll feel like he—or she—has saved the writing day!



Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer.
 She’ll be attending an SCBWI conference in Decatur, Georgia, on March 10th–12th. She’d love to see you there!

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